Trying Again

A phrase I heard frequently during my sister Abby’s visit last week was something along the lines of, “There’s a problem here, and what you need is a solution.”  She said this when she looked under my kitchen sink and when she saw the recycling erupting into the floor of our pantry.  She said this many times.  “Yes!  So many problems!  Help!

One of the projects she tackled with Jonny was to create a giant wooden chore chart for me.  I’ve tried several different ways of keeping up with chores and other tasks over the years.  Each time I have enthusiastically shared about my latest system here on the blog.  Each time I have ultimately failed to keep up with it.  I have looked over each system and questioned why it didn’t work, and the conclusion I reached is that each one required me to write things down every single week.  I don’t actually like to write things down.  And I have a lot of people to keep up with and write things down for, so maybe that’s been my big problem?  With this new system, each child has a row of hooks.  On each hook a paper tag is hung with their task written on it, but I only have to write it the first time.  I am slowly figuring out what I want each child to have reminders of.  Practicing musical instruments, chores that they don’t remember to do unless I hound them, and some school work.  Each child is different and not all of them need much reminding.  So for instance Seth’s row only has one tag right now:  practice piano–specifically Haydn.  He sits down to play frequently for pleasure, but not to play the specific pieces he is supposed to be working on.  He does a good job keeping up with his chores, and he also finds the chart offensive–so I won’t push it with him.  My little girls, on the other hand, need constant reminders for everything, so their rows are full between their summer school work, practicing instruments, and a couple of chores.  To make things more visual for me I bought each child a different washi tape to add to the back of their tags.  That way I can easily tell when they have flipped them.  Abby has been using this system for years, so I know that it can work.  It will just take a little effort on my part to enforce it.  But surely less effort than I spend constantly reminding everyone to “do this” and “do that.”  I may or may not come up with a way to keep up with who gets everything done each day and then have maybe a weekly family reward.  Honestly, I probably won’t.  But just having everything there on the wall–at the very least it will remind me to remind them.  That will definitely relieve some stress for me.  And another idea I had is to create a row of extra chores to use as consequences.  I’m definitely going to do that!  “You called your brother a name?  Go choose an extra chore!”  That’s going to be pretty great.  (My sister makes and sells wooden chore charts on Etsy, and she goes into detail about her system on the individual listings if you are interested in learning more.)

Having Abby here to help me get a few problem areas organized gave me the momentum to keep addressing tasks after she left.  We won’t start our official school year until September, but I need to go ahead and start planning for that.  I cleaned out the big green cabinet that I use to store homeschooling materials, and ordered some of the supplies that we need.  Lark and Bea need to be working now, so for the rest of summer they will work on some phonics (Explode the Code), math, and handwriting each day.  Abby cleaned out our art cabinet, and that makes it so much easier to pull out activities and supplies for Silas and Job.  Oftentimes they draw or color while the girls work on lessons (in the photo above they are using Crayon Rocks and Rubeez.)  Other times, they destroy things.  Usually it’s a combination of both.  Feeling desperate at the thought of my last bit of help leaving, I ordered the expensive set of Magna-Tiles the day before Abby headed home (and also these little cars to go with it). She has six boys herself, and evidently Magna-Tiles are one of their long-time most played with toys, worth the investment she says.  So far they have been very popular, but I keep having to tell my older boys that they are for the younger boys.  There have been tears over sharing, not sharing, etc.  But mainly, they have been saving my sanity over the last week.

I’m so thankful that I have had so much help and that I have some time before we have to get serious about school and life and everything that will hit this fall.  I’d forgotten how much having a newborn changes things.  You might think I would have that reality well imprinted in my mind.  But no, I’m still the same girl who thought that if she had her baby on a Friday (my first-born during my last year of college), she could be back in class on Monday.  The reality is that it’s awfully difficult to do anything but sit and nurse the baby, though every day I get a little closer to a new routine.  Learning how to integrate the care of a new little one in the family is not easy, whether it’s your first baby or your eighth.  But as we crowd around Mabel, discussing all the ways we love her (Silas was overheard singing to her this evening “Head to toe, I love you so.”) I am reminded that life is meant to be lived, not managed.  The management part is important of course, otherwise CHAOS!  But it’s good to keep what’s most important at the front of my mind.  That helps on the days when everyone is sick, including the new baby, the house is a mess, and I’m still wearing pajamas.


  1. I was given an old set of those tiles and I am constantly amazed at the creations my kids (currently 4, 3, and 1) come up with. Well, the 1-year old mostly destroys their creations… For a time, my 3-year old wouldn’t go to bed without them and they were the first thing she looked for when she woke up. We have had them for three years now and I don’t know how many hundreds of hours they have been in use. We’ve even put groups of college students to work with them!

  2. I’m glad that you have the right kind of help, not always the case with a newborn.
    I think I’ll take the idea of the chores board, I know my kid will love it, but I think I’ll add my own row, because I think my boy does not realizes how much I do, si I hope he will learns to appriciate.

    I love to read you and I can’t wait for the birth story, when ever you are ready and if ever you want to share it.

  3. I feel your pain about the chore lists! I think I may try this one.

  4. I don’t get to read blogs like I used to but I love being able to check in on you and your gorgeous family every so often. Congratulations on Mabel, she’s beautiful! I think you’re amazing with all those blessings you mother and all that that entails. I think my head would spin trying to keep up with it all. What I’m trying to say is I think you do a great job but if you haven’t heard of them my two favourite teachers for helping reduce the chaos in my life are David Allen and his GTD system (Getting Things Done) and Flylady with her baby steps and routines for helping me with clutter and cleaning.
    Much love xx

  5. Ginny,
    Thank you for taking the time to share this. It is a system I haven’t tried and think it would work well with m y personality type and I think the children would do well with it – the older I get, the more I realize children really do like expectations and order.

    Thinking of you.

  6. My daughter uses a similar system but instead of the paper tags she uses (home made with magnet glued on back) decorated popsicle sticks with the chore written on it. She has a magnetic board in her kitchen and each child has a section. She picks a day each week when chores are to be done and distributes the sticks in each child’s section. This way the house gets clean one moment in time each week. I was impressed when I saw it because even the almost 3 year old had tasks.

    On top of all that no one leaves the house unless their bed is made, dirty clothes picked up and toys and books put in their bins. It seems to work for them!

  7. I always appreciate your honesty! I think you are doing a great job!

  8. Beautiful detailed post. Thank you!

  9. Rebecca says:

    I’m a pretty new follower here, but I wanted to tell you how much that last paragraph resonated with me. I just had my third baby last Wednesday, and it is so wonderful he’s here, and the “big” kids love him so much, but it’s so hard and new – for all of us.

    Thank you for sharing.

  10. I like the idea of the wooden chore chart system. I’m a visual person, so I find things like that helpful. I’m in the process of doing a lot of organizing around here and it can feel overwhelming, but it’s good to be getting things flowing better. I love your reminder at the very end, though, that even though we want management so it’s not total chaos, it’s good to remember what’s really important. I need to refresh my perspective when I start getting overly stressed about messes, they are just messes. 🙂
    I love your pictures and you always have such a way with words, visiting your blog is always a gift to my spirit.

  11. I have a hard time staying organized just for myself so I can imagine how hard it is for you! well done for keeping on and trying new things! love the pictures! An Infant would change things, but yes, she is beautiful and so worth it!!! God bless!!!

  12. Beautiful pictures and I have Zinnia envy. 🙂

  13. THANK YOU so much for sharing the chore chart! I am just reading “Walking with Purpose” by LISA BRENNINKMEYER. She suggests using a binder with business card holder sheets and having your child flip the card in the holder when the job is done. I like your idea better because it is visible on the wall! Love your pictures and your posts!

  14. c_ellis says:

    Bless you Ginny, you are such a treat. And I mean that in the kindest, gentlest, humanist way possible.

  15. Posts like this really make me wish I had a sister! Oh, and magna tiles are a HUGE favorite here, too, but I didn’t realize they have the little car-wheel-thingies! Those are going on the wish list, for sure!

  16. We LOVE MagnaTiles all three of mine (7,5 and 2) absolutely love them. They are the most-played with toy in our house.

    Really appreciate the idea of this chore chart. I have started and stopped so many different systems, but these seems like one I could really stick with.

  17. Ginny, I love that your sister was there to help out so much! What a gift!!
    My baby Finn is 5 1/2 months now and I still can’t get things together. We never finished last year’s schooling (We stopped towards the end of my pregnancy) and now I still can’t get things together enough to even think about this upcoming year. I admit my other babies were so laid back and I expected Finn to be the same way so I thought i would have been all caught up by now but with Finn I can’t do much other than nurse and walk him around the house. I’ve shed quite a few tears over the overwhelming feeling that my kiddos will fall horribly behind in schooling and I won’t be able to catch them up. 🙁 What to do. What to do… XOXO

    • Don’t stress! They will be able to catch up when things settle down. I remind myself that the whole grade system doesn’t have to apply to my homeschool!

    • Isabel daSilva says:

      your children are learning everything they need to learn! they will not be behind by any standard that matters. Keep loving them and giving them the opportunities to stretch all of themselves, which so importantly includes how to fit into and exist happily in each and every situation they are in….the “school” part comes right along.

  18. I’ve been using a similar chore chart system, though mine is not as pretty. I use one of those large wall pocket calendars but I don’t put in the calendar cards. I put in chore cards. It’s really nice because it’s versatile too. Some stuff definitely has to go in everyday but others can be an every other day or once/week kind of chore. It’s easy to add new cards or take old ones out. I have been loving it!

  19. What a blessing to have your sister to help, and it sounds like she helps in a way that doesn’t disturb the loving tone of your home. Really, I start to weep reading about and seeing the peacefulness on the faces….

    I homeschooled five children over 21 years and was often trying new arrangements of chores and ways of organizing. I could never say that we had all the problems solved, because people and situations and schedules were always changing and new solutions had to be thought of. But I know that the children at least did learn over the years that love and order and service were the goals, and that it was all about us being a family and working together.

    Thank you for taking the time to write. Your posts are not only good for you and for your family, but a testimony to your readers of the treasures of real family life.

  20. Magna Tiles are worth every penny! And you can never have too many!!

    What a beautiful baby Mae is:)

  21. anniekitching says:

    Oh, everything is so beautiful in your photos!

    My best chore-doer is Anastasia, and we found that what works is texting. Not a visually beautiful solution until you look at the lovely work she does. This girl is a gifted cleaner/organizer!

  22. Forgot to zinnias up here in CT are JUST starting to bloom. Cabbages are ready to pick though.

  23. Lovely end to your blog. The La Leche League people say “People before things”. Finding that balance is what life is, I guess.
    Don’t forget to rest in the middle of organizing! 🙂

  24. Leslie F says:

    Baby feet are so sweet!

  25. Ginny, I’ve been hunting Amazon looking for similar tags and everything is just so plain. I absolutely love the look of yours and was hoping you could share where you found them! (Or your sister did) thank you so much!

    • I linked to the tags that I ordered (on Amazon) in the post. They are plain, but I added the washi tape to make them prettier on one side and to make it obvious when a tag has been flipped.

  26. “Life is meant to be lived, nt managed.” OH! How I ended that reminder today! Also-magna-tiles are my kids’ favorite toys, too. They have been frequently requested at Christmas from grandparents as they think of more ways to use more of them–doll houses, Lego battlefields, horse stables, castles, car garages, train stations, etc. I love that they are easy to use and able to use in an endless number of creative ways.

  27. Oh Ginny, I took a short break from attempting to control our chaos this morning and read your post- the timing couldn’t have been better. Maybe I’ll leave the laundry a little longer and go play in the sandbox. Thanks for sharing with us.

  28. My favorite part: “Honestly, I probably won’t.” Gotta love learning more about how you click and what is actually going to work with you! But ideals are always nice, too 😉 I am totally a person who needs a plan SO THAT I can then feel the freedom to go off of it. Otherwise, all I feel is overwhelmed and chaotic. Having things written down like the meal plan or homeschool schedule and up on the fridge is so helpful. Not because I follow it all the time but because I know that I could if I wanted to. Ha, if that makes any sense at all. It does in my head, at least!!

    I need to start thinking about getting my act together for September, too…

    • Yes, I am the same-totally makes sense! I need some sort of framework even if we don’t stick to it. I’ve just found that having “master” plans that don’t have to be re-written each week work best for me, otherwise I won’t make plans! I HATE meal planning and grocery shopping, so I have to have a master grocery list so that all I have to do is circle what I need once I figure out what our meals for the week are.

  29. Amy Corley says:

    I truly always love reading your posts and seeing your pictures, and I particularly loved this line from your post today, “I am reminded that life is meant to be lived, not managed.” SO TRUE!! Thank you for the reminder. When I visit here, I am encouraged to continue to press into loving my family well even in the midst of the craziness of daily life. You are an inspiration! May you continue to enjoy these precious newborn days.

  30. Aw! You are doing good things, loving like families love. Thank you for the tip about Magna Tiles. My grandkids need those!
    Prayers for happy peace, good Ginny!

  31. I love baby feet!

  32. Someone gave us a set of MagnaTiles 7 years ago and my children (now 11 and 8 years old) still play with them. One of the best toys I can recommend!

  33. Ginny- are the little car things in your picture part of the Magna-tile set or are they something different?

    I also feel kind of overwhelmed like you. We just moved cross country and while my baby is almost one instead of brand new like yours I still am trying to figure things out and get our school year planned. But, everything looks so lovely that you do. I guess I might need to look at your sister’s charts.

  34. Ginny, Mae looks just like you! That photo with Jonny’s hand where she’s wearing a pink onesie, her face is just like yours. I especially love the photos of Gabe with her, so beautiful.

  35. Love this Ginny! Especially the little song Silas was singing to his sweet baby sister!
    All the best with your chore charts. Nodding and laughing. Been there too.

  36. The magna-tiles are the most played with toy in our home. My eighteen year old all the way down to my six year old twins, love them! We ended up getting more than one set.
    Congratulations on Mabel! You really have beautiful babies!

  37. It’s always nice to find a new system that could help daily life run more smoothly! If it doesn’t work out that doesn’t mean you’re “failing” though – it just means life is unpredictable (not saying it will fail – this seems like a very organized, easy-to-work system. Just saying IF it does not go to plan, that is ok).

    Funny thing: my sister-in-law just had a baby as well (born two days after Mae), and she already had a 3 year-old daughter. We bought her Magna-Tiles as well, and according to my sister-in-law they have been great at keeping the oldest busy while she is nursing the baby! 😉

    Beautiful photos in this post, as always. I especially love the ones of Gabe and Mae. Have a good week, Ginny!

  38. Ahhh she is so sweet Ginny, and she really does look like you!

    Good luck with it all, the chore chart is a great idea.

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